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Smudging 101

Ah, smudging. One of my favorite activities! Wait, what’s that? You don’t know what I’m talking about? You’ve never heard of it?! Well, you’re not the only one. I was recently on vacation visiting one of my oldest friends, and as we were in the car on a day trip to Salem, the conversation turned to picking up some sage for someone. I immediately got excited (I named my freaking business after this amazing plant after all), but the rest of the car wasn’t sure what the sage was used for or even what the act of smudging entailed. I was shocked. Seriously! It then occurred to me that maybe smudging isn’t as well-known as I assumed it was. Thus, the inspiration for this post was born.

What is smudging?

Smudging is the ancient act of cleansing energies in an area or even around yourself, using the smoke from burning herbs or incense; oftentimes before a ritual or ceremony. When I say ancient, I’m talking ancient Egyptians, Native American tribes, and other indigenous folks from Central & South America. It can be revered as a sacred act or even used regularly in our mundane lives because the smoke from smudging can boost our moods, cleanse the air (by releasing negative ions, like Himalayan salt lamps), and send our prayers up.

Most people smudge with herbs that are bundled up, and thus we hear the term “smudge sticks”. However, loose herbs burned in a fire-safe container can also be used. I often smudge myself with just an incense cone before diving into my tarot work. Some folks also use feathers to waft the smoke around, especially if they’re using loose herbs, as waving a shell full of smoking herbs around could be disastrous.

Smudging is as simple as lighting your herbs or incense, blowing out the flame and using the smoke from whatever you’re burning to cleanse the air and energy around you or your space. You can speak an intention while you do this, something like “with this sage I remove any negativity from this space”; but it’s not required.

The most common herbs to smudge with are:

  1. Sage (salvia) – there are several types of sage out there but the 2 most common are white

    White and wild sage sticks

    sage and what I call “wild sage”, but I believe it’s referred to by others as either blue or lavender sage. Wild sage can be found in fields or even on the sides of the road in more arid climates. I’ve personally harvested and bundled wild sage that I’ve found on hikes in Colorado. White sage is native to southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. Sage is known for eliminating or banishing negative energies.

  2. Sweetgrass – sweetgrass bundles are presented as a braid. Known as ‘the sacred hair of Mother Earth’, the 3

    Sweetgrass braid

    strands represent love, kindness and honesty. Sweetgrass can be found in marshes and wet meadows, and along streams and lakes. It invites in positive energies & spirits and has a great calming effect.

  3. Palo Santo – unlike sage & sweetgrass, Palo Santo, or holy wood, is an actual tree found in Central and South America. Like sage, it’s used to cleanse negative energies. While researching how it’s harvested, I found some startling information on and will share part of that with you here: “Traditionally, only the fallen

    Palo Santo sticks

    branches and twigs of the tree are harvested, and this practice is regulated by the government of Peru to ensure that the trees do not become over harvested. Unfortunately, as Palo Santo has become more popular, the illegal harvesting and cutting of trees has also greatly increased. Consequently, if you are purchasing wild harvested Palo Santo, it is important to do so from an ethical wildcrafter.” (Source)

When to smudge…

As I stated above, smudging can be used for any number of ceremonial or mundane reasons, but I’ve listed some others below for your reading pleasure:

  1. When moving into a new place, it’s important to cleanse the energies left behind by others who once resided there. It can also be used to help tame any spirits that may be lurking in a new place too. (I might have to write more on this sometime in the future… spirit work is a whole other ball of wax.)
  2. When preparing for any ritual or ceremonial works, like before a full moon ritual, any type of spiritual journey work, or even a wedding. If it’s an occasion where you want clear and focused energies present, then you start with smudging.
  3. When you’re feeling down, grumpy or just negative. This is one of my favorite times to smudge with sage!!
  4. Before and/or after hosting guests. I love cleansing the guest room with sage prior to having people come for a visit. I feel like it resets the room and provides a type of security for the space that I find hard to describe. These guests don’t even have to stay over. If you’re hosting a family get together (like Thanksgiving), it’s always nice to clear the family drama out of the dining room when everyone’s packed their left overs and headed home.
  5. As part of your self-care routine on Sunday night. One of my favorite self-care rituals includes a ritual bath (more on that later), some pampering (like giving myself a pedicure or tweezing the brows), and some spiritual work (like journaling, meditation, self-reiki or even a tarot spread). Doing things like this the night before you restart your crazy, weekly life can become an important part of your own sanity.

I invite you to adopt a smudging routine within your life. Have fun and play around with the different kinds of items you can smudge with, and the reasons you have for smudging. I’d love to hear about your experiences as well, so feel free to share in the comments!

Sending you all the love!

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